Eerie sounds. Thudding piano notes. Rapid-fire clips of Donald Trump making disparaging remarks about women.
This minute-long takedown looks like a political ad. It sounds like a political ad. But according to the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC sponsoring it, this is not an ad. It’s simply a “Web video” — and one exempt from the kinds of public disclosures applied to paid political communications broadcast over the airwaves.
So, what’s this “Web video” doing on television?
The stinging anti-Trump attack, created by pro-Clinton hybrid super PAC Correct the Record, aired nationally numerous times this week on network news programs, including those on Fox News and CNN. It even earned “breaking news” billing on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” garnering a 20-minute dissection by Lemon, chief political correspondent Dana Bash and various political pundits.
What’s notable about this anti-Trump Web video — indistinguishable in production quality from the hundreds of thousands of political ads blanketing U.S. airwaves — is that Correct the Record is getting its airtime for free via these news programs, instead of paying to air them during commercial breaks. Correct the Record therefore avoids the five-figure costs typical to reserve such an ad spot.
Earning free media time is something Trump himself has mastered better than any other presidential candidate.
The ad’s sponsor
Correct the Record came to life as a super PAC one year ago after breaking off from American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC founded in 2010 to elevate Democrats and disgrace Republicans.
So far, the Clinton campaign has used Correct the Record as its main outsourcer of negativity — often the role taken on by super PACs, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.
Yet Correct the Record is different.